Facebook provided evidence to Robert Mueller, the lead special counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice, that a company named The Internet Research Agency had purchased about $100,000 in advertisements, during the U.S. presidential race.
The Internet Research Agency, a PR firm located in St. Petersburg, Russia seemed to have been hired to distribute and “troll” mis-information and heighten conflict among internet users during the contentious times during the election months.
Reuters reported that the “…report followed news that an internal Facebook investigation found it is agents of the Kremlin may have spent $100,000 on ads with “divisive messages” between June 2015 and May 2017.”
Alex Stamos, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer, posted an update on the company’s blog stating:
“In reviewing the ads buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”
He also added:
“The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate…the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights…one-quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, and of those, more ran in 2015 than 2016.”
In April 2017, Facebook acknowledged that there was “much disinformation” being spread on its pages. Google, then, said they had no evidence of any Russian origin manipulation, but “updated its algorithms”. Twitter had proclaimed that they forwardly countered “cyber propaganda” by “tweaking” their algorithms, in the effort to block bots.